Leaving the marina in Batam we were faced with a very stressful trip ahead. The waters around Singapore are the busiest in the world. Over 250 cargo ships anchored and allegedly one ship moves every two minutes. At the widest point there are four shipping lanes, two going eastwards and two going westwards. Not to mention the pilot boats, police and coastguard boats, tugs pulling all sort of things including oil platforms plus the ferries and the odd fishing boats. To make matters worse, the weather was horrendous, instead of the light winds that are usual here there were 25 knots of headwinds (NE Monsoon) and choppy seas, rain and poor visibility. We headed west very slowly due to the strong winds, once the angle with the shipping lane was 90 degree; we turned to cross the lanes. This is when the wind picked up to almost 30 knots, so we were doing a mere 2 knots across the lane, with cargo boats closing on us at 15knots and more. Despite this, the crossing was not so bad, only had to avoid a tug boat that would not alter its course at all. Once leaving the shipping lane behind us, we skirted around Singapore and sought refuge away from the chaos, in Johor Straits. The river divides Singapore and Malaysia. It was interesting that the Singaporean side was surrounded with a barbered wire fence. Police boats were patrolling the borders that had sings of live shooting area. But we wondered if all this security was just to stop the Malays entering the island illegally. Or Singapore take the threat of terrorism very seriously.
Spent the night anchored in front of Johor Bahru, very convenient as the town is big and modern and Singapore is just a bus ride from here. More boat repairs are waiting for us, and this is the place to get things fixed. The weather has changed drastically, from the unbearably hot and humidity in Indonesia , now is rainy and temperatures dropped. Also daily lightning, not very comforting. Checking in to the country proved to be a task. We took a taxi that dropped us on the bus/car terminal that links to Singapore. After explaining that we wanted to clear in, we managed to get Immigration clearance which was easy. Approaching Customs was slightly different, they sent us around to the Lorry checkpoint where no one knew what to do with us. After that we were directed to the ferry terminal to Indonesia. Some confusion there and the officials were clearing us out!! We explained that we just arrived into the country. They told us to come back once leaving JB, so not sure if we are completely legal... Meanwhile the cabbie who was driving us around took the opportunity to increase his fare from 20 Ringgit to 130 Ringgit as we were stuck in the middle of nowhere, only able to return to town with the drivers help.
Last few days was spent looking around town, not that there is much to see. Although JB is very pleasant, clean, lush green and there are some grand buildings, including the sultan's palace, who is practically our neighbor. But finding odd bits to the boat proved to be a task, maybe because of language barriers or the fact that the Asians can't say "Don't Know". Instead they send you around town on a wild goose chase. Very slowly we are finding our way around.
There is an interesting mixture of Indians, Malays and Chinese people, although none of them seems to mix. The shopping malls either have only Chinese or Islamic shops. While the Indians own the corner or street shops, as in other parts of the world. The Muslims (mostly Malays) take up all the governmental jobs and the Chinese run the commerce.
Although Singapore wasn't included in our plans, being so close and easy to get to, we decided to pay a day visit to the "Nanny State". Few more rules have been added to the list since last we have been here 8 years ago: No eating in the underground station, No waiting around in the Immigration lounge. As soon as we stepped out of the bus we broke a few of these rules: We had a smoke in the street and also did heaps of jaywalking, a rule that nobody seemed to be following. Then we headed for the Chinatown, the visit ending in quite a religious experience. First we visited the Sri Mariaman Temple, the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore . After that went over to the Pagoda of the 10.000 Buddha's ,finishing at the Jamae Mosque just as the Muslims were having their midday prayers. Chinatown is very interesting with colorful arcades, much more temples then we could have visited and lots of shops with Chinese goods and silk clothes. We walked for miles, absorbing the city. We couldn't miss visiting Little India, with its superb curries. It was worth for a day out, but we were so glad to be back in Malaysia, where people smile a lot more and life is a lot slower. The wealth in Singapore is comparable with London, so is the stress and the money orientated lifestyle.
Met some interesting people while here, Paul a single sailor, was one of them. He has been cruising the SE Asia for 10 years now. He gave us good tips about anchorages and places to go. Like us, he is in a tight budget, but he says if all goes wrong he can always return to Australia on the dole!! Besides that, Asia is great to fill up the water tanks, it rains almost every afternoon and we have no water problems any more- as long as it is not acid rain-we just stock up on the "pure" water.
Two weeks in JB and we were quite settled . The thought of moving again just didn't appeal; we are tired of moving all the time and above all, tired of sailing. It is early in the season to go up the Melaka Straits, head winds and Sumatra's coming down on us. These Sumatra's occur during the change of monsoon, bringing strong winds, rain, poor visibility, thunderstorms with lightning. But moving is the nature of what we are doing... So we left.
Luckily there was no Sumatra today. Melaka Strait is incredibly busy with cargo ships going up and down. It looks like normally there is little wind during the morning, but in the afternoon we were hit with moderate headwinds and some swell, so progress was very slow. We anchored in Pulau Pisang. The bay is formed by two little islands and there is only fishing boats around and of course the cargo ships transiting the Straits.
Woke up too late, but as soon as we saw the sea state we left. It was as calm as a lake and no wind. We wouldn't make the next anchorage in daylight, but couldn't miss the settled weather. For the night we anchored in a rolly bay. Cooking and sleeping was impossible, it was as rolly as sailing!
Paul, the single sailor told us the story of Pulau Besar, where we are anchored now. He heard it from a local: This is a sacred island for the Hindus. A holy man is buried here, with a huge shrine. People come here to visit the shrine, and pray, therefore it is not allowed to drink alcohol and have sex with other then your spouse in the island. Until a Muslim arrived here and wanted to build a huge Resort, going against the wishes of the Hindus. The locals watched with disgust the built of the resort and trees being cut down to build a golf course. One day the Muslim hotelier got caught out with a 12 years old girl. Prosecution followed, he lost all his money, the resort shut down and he fell in disgrace. It was bad Karma.
From Besar we reached Melaka with a dinghy ride, followed by a ferry and 2 bus rides. This city has an interesting history. Almost every seafaring country had their share of Melaka. First was ruled by the Hindus from Sumatra, then the Chinese, followed by the Indian Islam, Portuguese, Dutch, British and finally very briefly by the Japanese during WW II. The Dutch square is the most interesting part, with old colonial buildings. We visited the Stadthuys, the old Governor's house and now is the Historical Museum, very interesting. There is so much to see here, but time was short for us, we missed out the replica of the Sultan's Palace and the Museum of Beauty ( concepts of beauty around the world) which was a real shame. For an early dinner we decided to find Capitol Satay, a 3rd generation family run restaurant, quite an institution here. We starved ourselves to have a huge feast of Malay food, but for our disappointment the place was shut! That was heartbreaking!
Arrived at Port Klang, a dirty and smelly port town. We didn't hang around too long; soon we were on our way to Kuala Lumpur leaving Nomad Life safely at the Yacht Club. Thanks to Zsizsi and Tamas we had a place to stay in KL and a chance to get off the boat. Their triplex penthouse is in the heart of town (Golden Triangle), overlooks the Petronas Twin Towers and is very convenient for sightseeing. The modern high rising buildings dominates the sky and same as in JB, there are more grand buildings. We are noticing that the Malaysians like to build in grand style... The traffic is chaotic, there is constant smog in the air and it is stuffy and humid. Despite all that we instantly liked KL.
The Kings palace also have guards with horses on the gates , a heritage from the Brits . There is a peculiar type of Kingdom here: A new king is elected every 4 years from the 12 sultanates that forms the count. We arrived at the Chinese temple just in time for the Sunday mass, with singing and prayers. A fifteen minutesí drive took us to the Batu caves, a Hindu worshiping place. Hundreds of devotees come here to worship Lord Subramanian. Like Mecca for the Muslims, every Hindu should pay a visit here at least once in lifetime. We noticed that some of the followers had a shaven head covered with a yellow paste, some were children others adults. Then Zsizsi told us that on their first visit the Hindus have to shave their heads. In the afternoon we visited the administrative capital Putrajaya. Here is where the Ministries and governmental buildings are located. To have a better idea of the lavishness, the Ministry of Finance building is a whole one km long! Apparently is a huge waste of money and very impractical idea, but to comply with the Malaysian slogan " Malaysia Boleh" (Malaysia can), it was built simply because they have the money to do it, at the moment. We tried to visit the biggest Mosque in Malaysia, but we were denied access as we are not Muslims...
Two hoursí drive from KL is Tasik Chini. Twelve lakes are linked by vegetation clogged channels. With a canoe ride we got to a village where the Jakun people live, an Orang Asli tribe. Although the blooming season is over, we were lucky to see the lotus flowers, some of them on full bloom. For the evening we opted for a real landlubbers program. We went to cinema, which is quite a novelty for us. All the action and violence scenes of James Bond have been speeded up, result of the censorship imposed by the government.
Time to hit the seas again... Both of us were quite sad, we had a wonderful time in KL. Mostly due to the hospitality and generosity of Tamas and Zsizsi, who spoiled us and made us feel truly at home. It was very interesting to see how ex pats live here and their views of the country. The last day we spent working on the boat, in Port Klang. We heard that the river is filthy, all sort of objects come floating down: fridges, TVs. A friend of us saw a dead cow last week. But it was a shock when a body was hauled out from the muddy water. That just wasn't bad enough; the body was left uncovered for hours just next to the dinghy jetty...
Chan See Shu Yuen Temple, Kuala Lumpur